Mary Tudor, youngest sister of Henry VIII, was known as one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe – which made her a valuable commodity in the political marriage market. Her long-term childhood betrothal to Charles of Castille (who would later become Charles V) was called off so that she could cement a peace treaty with France: on October 9, 1514, she married Louis XII of France. Mary was not happy about the marriage (she was 18, Louis was 52), and allegedly agreed only after Henry promised that she would be allowed to marry whomever she liked if (when) Louis died. Of course, Henry probably saw this more as a right to veto an unwelcome choice rather than as a commitment he would have to honor.
Still, she agreed and left for France. She was crowned on November 4, 1514 in a magnificent display of pomp (I wrote a blog post about it, you can read it here) and all of France hoped for an heir. Unfortunately, three months after the wedding the only thing to result from the activity in the royal bedchamber was the death of Louis XII (people loved to say he died from “his exertions” but truth was it was probably gout). Henry sent Charles Brandon to bring her home from France – a big mistake since Brandon and Mary were already in love. Henry knew this, but sent Brandon anyway, making him promise he would not propose to her. The couple easily got around this when Mary acted as the aggressor, insisting Brandon marry her in secret before their return.
Henry was furious, and threatened Brandon with execution (it was treason to marry a Royal Princess without the ruling monarch’s consent) but he soon calmed down and had the couple remarry in England on May 13, 1515 so he could witness the event himself. The marriage is always described successful; they were happy together, and produced four children. Their two sons, both named Henry, died in childhood; a daughter named Eleanor lived to 28. It was their oldest daughter, Frances, who made the biggest name for herself: she married Henry Grey, Third Marquess of Dorset, and was the mother of Lady Jane Grey – the Nine Days Queen. But that’s another blog post…
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